ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 28, 2009) – Moro rebels allegedly burned down a government school in the southern Philippine province of Basilan, a known stronghold of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forces, the military said Saturday.
Army spokeswoman Lt. Steffani Cacho said the rebels, led by Omar Ladjala, burned the Erely School in the town of Sumisip on Friday. The motive of the attack was unknown, but Cacho said the villagers were supporting military efforts in the town.
“It could be in retaliation to the continued support we are getting from the locals in Basilan, especially in Sumisip town,” she said told the Mindanao Examiner.
No one was reported hurt or killed in the arson, she said.
Security forces had repeatedly clashed with MILF rebels in Basilan, just several nautical miles south of Zamboanga City. Authorities have linked the MILF to terrorism and kidnappings for ransom in the restive region of Mindanao, but the rebel group also denied all the allegations.
On Friday, deadly clashes in Maguindanao province on the main island of Mindanao killed 20 rebels and seven soldiers, according to the military.
But the rebel group said only two of its fighters were slain in the fighting it blamed to the army after troops raided a known MILF stronghold near Mamasapano town in the Muslim autonomous region.
The MILF has been fighting the past decades for the establishment of a separate Muslim state in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)